ALA 2010: Science Fiction: Past Present Future

Eric S. Rabkin, Cory Doctorow and others whose names I hope I catch Neil Hollands.

As I just observed on Twitter…he does indeed have a cool jacket, complete with buttons.  I like buttons.  Have a few too many on my lanyard, so it’s starting to look like crazy cat lady librarian’s lanyard.  (I do have a cat, sooo…..)

10:20 – A/V problems…laptop isn’t working at the mo.  Still have 10 minutes to figure it out.  The room is filling up, which is a good thing! There won’t be free books, but I don’t care.  Just glad to be here.  🙂

10:30 – We have Net, we have laptop, we have presenters, we have overhead up….we’re ready to go!

10:32 – Noticing there are more women than men here…SF readers are stereotypically male.  But the fact that librarians are stereotypically women has skewed the graph in an interesting way.

10:35 – We begin!  Intros.  This is SF 101/bootcamp for non SF readers or anyone who wants to know how to work with SF in a Reader’s Advisory session.

Eric Rabkin

  • SF is a large field; he’s made us a website
  • The Rise of Science Fiction 
  • Amazing Stories is the beginning of modern SF.  This is when the term began to be used & it crystalized.  
  • This issue included Poe, Wells, Verne.  Verne = enthusiasm for science.  Wells = what are the social consequences.  Poe = the romance.  This fic will make people want to be scientists
  • The editor was a visionary & inventor himself.  He gave us a sense of who the fathers of SF are
  • The first novel? Robinson Crusoe.  It’s kinda SF.  The first Western novel translated into Japanese was a SF novel.
  • From the US, pulp is an important feed into SF…Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains.  It played to the stereotypes of its time.  But there is one difference: SF by the kind of work that it is tries to make 1 little extra change.  Here’s its the steam man it(him?)self
  • Burroughs’ Barsoom is the first great series…anthropological science fiction, set in AZ & John Carter ends up on Mars.  This is the tie to the Western…lone hero who settles the hash between the in group & out group.  (Holy crap!  What else is Doctor Who?)
  • Slan by A. E. van Vogt 
  • Heinlein’s Future History – sat down with (allegedly) a huge roll of butcher paper he wrote out future history – a framework for writing SF from 1940s to 2600.  It was so plausible, it became a shared universe that other writers used for setting
  • Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles – he’s the 1st SF writer interviewed by NYT Book Review b.c he was a SF writer.  Enter the “but that’s not science!”
  • Wells was the 1st SF writer who knew as much about SF as writing
  • His definition of SF:
    • plausible, high adventure, intellectual excitement.
    • Given that, SF can be considered to have existed as far back as Plato
    • Lady Gaga standing in the gyroscope like rings in the Bad Romance video is, in his opinion,  referencing the gymnasium scene in Gattica, which is itself a similar image as the famous da Vinci image of the Vitruvian Man.
  • Genre Evolution Project – go see the word cloud built from 2500 American SF works run together as one text
  • Frankenstein = gothic + plausibility : Mary Shelley is the Grandmother of SF.
Cory Doctorow
  • “presentist” and tech activist.  How tech is changing society
  • Self-destorying spaceship – the SF future he doesn’t want to visit
  • “would this be a better spaceship if it wasn’t designed to explode?”
  • He’s worried we’re gonna build self-destroying spaceships, like the fact we x-ray our shoes when the shoe bomber’s 
  • looking at patron records in secret is latter-day phrenology – @Doctorow
  • we put up with nonfunctional tech = DRM.  This is like the exploding spaceship
  • Android apps that as a prank compromised security.  The Kindle / 1984 debacle
  • Mfgs have made devices where the device can be remotely modified against our wishes & without our knowledge
  • We FAIL because we don’t vote with our $ by buying devices that are offering us privacy & protection
  • Our phones are the extrusion into the real world of corporations.  Corps’s connection to your phone = the tendril connected to the Old God of Lovecraft
  • Libraries are not apart from this….CIPA, click trackers that stop you from looking at “bad” things
  • Meanwhile…we lecture kids for sexting & FB privacy.
  • Load your own FF copy via usb to access a proxy server that gets around a firewall…ooh, that’s helpful to know. 😉
  • battle between 2 SF’s: superficial movie SF vs real literary SF
  • futurismic – like all caps at the beginning of an SF film
  • We’re fighting over which story of the future to believe in
  • Heinlein – wrote great stories about people who came to our world & showed the alien how oddball humans are
  • (there’s a great 2 vol tell-all Heinlein bio coming out from Tor)
  • the local & temporary nature of current rules – “all rules are local”
  • He scoffs at the notion that without monetary incentive, no one would make anything great.  I agree!  All fandom behavior is driven by love, not money.
  • 1984 – tech made possible industrializing control for authoritarians.  Cory thinks tech undermines whatever the status quo is.  Ex: middle ages & large scale earthworks.  defenders need a perfect wall.  Attackers need 1 imperfection in the wall.  The job of the attacker is easier.  Def needs to be perfect, attacker just needs 1 flaw.
  • At first, Net freed conversation.  Now we started giving kids cell phones with GPS trackers in it.
  • The UK has a mosquito – it takes advantage of the hi pitches adults can’t / kids can hear.  It plays an annoying tone on kids’ registers and people use it to stop kids from being places, like in a shop.  He points out we’d never tolerate a device invented to torture blacks, Jews, etc.  Why are we doing this to our kids?
  • Kids find interesting illegitimate facts used to be expensive.  Goog has crashed the value of facts, but now we need to know the keywords to search and critical faculties to eval information.
  • Wikipedia.  Dang it, you can see how the page is written.  Someone make me a tool that colors the page based on the page history.  So you can see by the color, the trustworthiness
  • Start actively resisting the exploding rocketship…it’s the DRM in your collection.
  • We should have periodicals forever, and add to that all the good stuff of digitalization
  • We have the moral authority of our profession.  Frankly you look like a jerk when you say bad things about librarians.  On its face you look like an idiot when you say those librarians only want to feather their nests!
Neil Hollands, Williamsburg VA
  • How to work with SF readers:
    • no sweat, those are my peeps
    • that’s easy for you to say, you’re one of them
  • He loves SF, but is more like most librarians who don’t read it themselves
  • Start with getting a handle on who they are
    • are not: motivated by a single unified approach to SF
    • are: there’s still a group of SF readers who prefer short stories
    • are: some who want/don’t want hard science
    • are: action lovers & then deep thought lovers
    • are: pleasant future & dystopians
    • are: complex character lovers vs those who just want a complex story
    • are not: always fantasy readers.  They are two separate genres.  Sometimes they hate the other thing.  Sometimes they do happen to love both.
    • Some = lit of characters (fantasy) lit of ideas (SF)
    • Action-adventure focused readers may like both & consider them the same
    • not anymore from a single demographic….used to be a younger white male. more!  The original fans are dead.  Now we have a strong YA sf reader base.  Politically they’re all over the map.  We’re starting to see an ethnic diversity change.
    • They all tend to
      • be more independent that the average patron
      • demo knowledge & interest with displays & programs
      • opinionated, passionate, sometimes strange, and yet witty – can be a rewarding interaction, but just take it all in fun & don’t be always neutral
      • they are going to be interested in a lot of other media & be prepared for diversions.  Go with the flow.  You don’t always have to be the guide
      • They are very participatory.  They want it to be a conversation.  Let them do that
      • attend to audio & video collections…they love all media & have knowledge about the diff between film & book versions
      • they are tech early adopters….make SF content the first thing you make available when experimenting with tech.  Consider how a new thing would look to them
    • Fellowship in a Ring – his book
    • General SF types
      • Old School/Golden Agers
        • slow to abandon the classic authors.  Still reading the classics – Heinlein, Asimov & Clarke
        • Still reading short stories
        • retrospective collecting
        • = notes there about the classic authors
        • condition might tank circ.
      • Action/Adventure Fans
        • which aspect do they like – military? pulp media tie-ins? space opera? single protagonist adventures?
        • be series aware for both Fantasy & SF collections
        • know the order or how to look up the order of the books in series
        • know if you have to read it in order
        • over? or still being written?
        • be patient with the series before you throw it out.  Critical mass can come on several books in
        • catalog multi author series together on the shelf
      • Futurists
        • what kind of future?  hard sci?  complex ethics? soc sci?  politics? dystopians?
      • YAs
        • only a matter of time before they get their Harry Potter & SF explodes
        • they are ready, often, for adult fic as well
        • don’t assume they know the Golden Age writers & they may really love them when you show them
      • Crossover readers
        • we’re building the audience
        • they read other genres, but they are ready to explore SF
        • Pathways – SF writers to suggest for readers in other areas ( on the blog cited above
    • Programming?  Hell, they have a hard time to find like-minded people.  Don’t try to create the group from scratch.  Go to any local cons, talk to managers & panelists, gaming groups, large sci or software employers.  Fantasy?  SCA, reenactor groups.  See what interest pockets are in your area & go from there
  • What to say to academic coll dev person who is not interested in putting SF in the collection – this is an old debate.  Try to get donated copies in & go back with circ records OR if you go to Cory’s site, you can request a copy that someone who wants to donate for the free downloadable copy will buy & send to you. OR get faculty on board with research & the gates will open OR go with them about the awards
  • Cory: have you had any opportunity to talk to labor groups about using tech?  Yes.  He’s a member of the UK writers union & they are about to work more with that area
  • SF large print or other options? Large print no so much, but look for specific books that are popular with older readers.  Ex: classic authors or Charlaine Harris.  Problem: publishers aren’t going for the right titles.  Also sticker them & put them where people can find them among all the romance.  Cory: worked with a teacher in Detroit at a school for the blind & got her a big data dump of plain texts for the book reading machines since she couldn’t get them any other way.
  • Film Societies and libraries partnering for programs?  You can do that.
  • Reenactment of War of the Worlds radio broadcast at Williamsburg PL as a program- cool!
  • Good recommendations for little kids – Daniel Pinkwater, Bruce Coville, John S, Rebecca Stead, 
  • Place to look for the transcription & links?  ALA Connect or LITA – Imagineering Interest Group & LITA blog
WOW!  This was awesome!!!!

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